Monday, July 17, 2017

"Superstar!"

Hey readers, and pole sana for the delay in posting this blog entry.  I've been here, there, and everywhere in between with barely a moment to catch my breath!  At any rate, I am now back in La Mosh, at home with Drogo and at work with Hyasinta and the rest of the Toa teaching staff.  Things seem to have gone well in my ten-week absence, so it's not been bad picking up where we left off.

In case you're wondering, the title of this post refers to the iconic Molly Shannon Saturday Night Live skit in which she plays awkward Catholic schoolgirl, Mary Katherine Gallagher.  Though I managed not to bury my fingers in my armpits and sniff them nor bare my undergarments to the world in a spastic fit, I was acutely aware of my professional angles the whole time I was in Australia.  "Superstar!" all over the place.

You see, I had come to Perth as the sole emissary of The Toa Nafasi Project at the 2017 Biennial Conference of the International Association of Special Education with Angi being otherwise occupied back in Zanzibar and Gasto stranded in Arusha without a visa.  This led to a very heightened state of awareness on my part, a mixture of being super-nervous and hyper-confident, practically thrumming with energy and anxiety literally the whole time.  Really, I think the next time I attend a professional event alone, I need some sort of meds....preferably with a long half-life....

According to my pals at the IASE, however, I did superbly, so I guess I managed to hide my nerves fairly well.  No spontaneous utterances of "Superstar!" followed by extended falling down and damage of the immediate surroundings....at least not in public anyway....

The conference itself was quite a marvel.  There were roughly 200 attendees from 33 different countries around the world, all gathered together at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Center in downtown Perth, Western Australia (aka the end of the world!).

I had never been to Australia before so this in itself was a brand-new experience for me.  I traveled from New York to Dubai and Dubai to Perth, spent about a week in Perth, and then left Perth for Doha, Doha to Kilimanjaro.  Shortly after reuniting with Drogo and friends in Moshi, I was off to Zanzibar for Round Two of my escapades with Kaitlin who was due back in the U.S. to prepare for her sophomore year of college.  That, however, is a whole other blog entry as we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of my stepping foot in Africa on July 4, 2007.  Hijinks, capers, and shenanigans galore.

But back to the IASE conference.  Never mind I had just traveled 36hours from NYC and arrived in Perth in the dead of night on a Sunday; the very first day, I was scheduled to give a presentation about Toa Nafasi as an IASE "volunteer service project" site and talk about how IASE members could come to Moshi and help work with us, namely in the vein of teacher training.

This went pretty well as it was a round-table seated discussion and even though I was the speaker, it was not an "all eyes on me" situation where my nerves really kick in.  I don't know what it is, I am certainly not shy nor introverted by any means, but for some reason, public speaking makes me absolutely insane and my essential tremor kicks in like nobody's business!  It happened in the States too, at fundraising pitches and it is soooo embarrassing.  One of my friends here in Moshi joked that he should put a piano under my fingers and I'd play like Beethoven!


The second day, I had to present my paper, so this was the BIG DAY.  And yes, I shook like a leaf!  But my audience was small, engaged, and encouraging, so I was able to make it through and field questions with confidence ("Superstar!") and some modicum of knowledge.  Obviously, since I was the one speaking, I don't have pics of this, but here are a few mementos from the day: my conference badge and program (with a note reminding me not to forget my photo album), the sign outside my room and the podium within, and my little blurb in the program.






As you can see from the above blurb, the talk that I gave about Toa centered around the teachers, not the students, and how Toa has provided them with a sense of professional achievement outside of government-sanctioned means.  Not that they are lawless and running wild, but that where the government of Tanzania has failed these girls - in their studies, in their employment opportunities, in the making of them anything other than wife or mother - Toa has picked up the slack and offered them the chance to work and learn a valuable skill, training them in-service as they go.

The paper itself is a bit idealistic and self-congratulatory I concede, but not everyone need know our dirty laundry, right?!  And, obviously, creating change on this level is going to carry its share of challenges some of which we were able to overcome, some of which we are still tackling.  At any rate, I think it went over really well, and the paper titled "Gaining from Training: Cultivating a Professional Persona in a Rural Setting" will be published in the JIASE (Journal of the International Association of Special Education) sometime in the near future.  (Allow me here a quick finger sniff of righteous vainglory....)

Day Three brought yet another spotlight on me/Toa ("Superstar!" all over again) as I clambered onto an even bigger stage to speak to ALL the conference participants and tout the next biennial conference which will be held in July 2019 here in Tanzania.  I was not as nervous for this as Iris (the president of the IASE) was up on stage with me and we labored through some tech problems to run the PowerPoint presentation about Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University in Lushoto where that conference will be held.  The (very green) save the date card is below.


When that mess was finally over, I got to relax and simply be an attendee in peace and quiet with as many finger sniffs as needed to settle my frazzled nerves.  

I enjoyed the talks of other conference-goers, such as Morgan Chitiyo, a Zimbabwe-born professor at Duquesne University (before you get your hopes up, he's married, Mom....).  Morgan took my breath away, quite frankly.  His talk was amazing and resonated on so many levels.  I guess I was lucky because it was all about disability within the African context, so very relevant to the work that Toa does.  (Although after I gave my talk the previous day, a frantic Vietnamese woman sought me out to say that she was experiencing the same obstacles and challenges about disability in her part of the world!  So, really, the African context is kind of indicative of the greater human context, is it not?)


Here's a clip of Morgan's keynote speech in which he talks about the massive population of the African continent and the large number of people with disabilities living within.  By shutting them out of schools and the workforce, African governments are essentially losing vast numbers of people who are perfectly qualified to learn and work.  He refers to this group as "the forgotten tribe."  Morgan also talks about how, if Africa as a continent truly wants to develop and move forward in the global community, it will need this tribe to do so.  The strength of Africa is in its people and by marginalizing vast numbers of its citizenry, it is holding its own development back.  I strongly recommend taking a moment to watch this, and to look Morgan up if you are even remotely interested in disability (or development) in Africa.
 
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Aside from Morgan's talk, I did get to attend others' as well as make a lot of new contacts.  I think once my time in the spotlight was over, I was able to loosen up and just schmooze like my normal self (still a "Superstar!").  There were many Africans in attendance, so we tended to band together, but also people from all over Asia and Europe.  Not so many from the Americas, however....

For the better part of the week, I was indoors but did get a lovely view of Perth's Elizabeth Quay out the conference center's windows.  I was able to book a boat trip on the Swan River later in the week during which I Mary Katherine-spazzed upon seeing a group of baby dolphins splashing in the waves.


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The conference ended with a gala dinner during which some special needs children from the Perth area performed for the audience and I took video to show the Toa teachers that even wazungu kids have special needs and they piga ngoma (play drums) just like Danny and Vincent here at the Gabriella Center.  (Just as an explanatory FYI, that is Mary Gale, the past-president of the IASE wearing the Statue of Liberty foam crown.  The last night, everyone came garbed to rep their respective countries, so MG was lady Liberty from the USA for the evening.)
 
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I was also gifted with not one but TWO certificates that I personally don't really care about, but I knew the Toa teachers would die over.  Certification and paperwork is the law of the land here and everyone from the highest parliament member to the girl who cleans your house loves a cheti.  So I brought them back to show the teachers and, as I expected, got a lot of ooh's and aah's over them.  One is for attending the conference and the other is for being a VSP site.  I mean, okay, but I'm much more interested in what the chetis represent than the piece of paper themselves....

 

Finally, I had a couple days to myself to explore the beauty of Perth unencumbered by nerves and work responsibilities.  In addition to my adventures with dolphins on the high seas, I went out to Fremantle, the infamous prison and a World Heritage Site.  The British sent their convicts to Australia to form a new colony in the mid-1800s, but first on the to-do list?  Build your own prison!  Yeah, turns out it really sucks to be a convict....



My last day, I went to Caversham Wildlife Park and like an idiot, left my phone (camera) charging in the hotel.  Thus begun one of the most awkward days of my life.  It truly was like an SNL skit as the only other people on my tour were a Malaysian family who I basically just attached myself to, in order to get some photos taken.

Actually, Shikin, Shahrol, their cousin, auntie, and uncle were the kindest, sweetest people to allow me to tag along on their wildlife tour, from the wombat section to the dingo cage.  By the time we got to the penguin pool, we were fast friends.  Still, a strange experience to say the least.  Mary Katherine definitely would have spazzed out at some point on this tour, but I think I was just too exhausted. 

Here's a kangaroo who got super-excited to see me and thought I had food for him before I'd even had my coffee!  He took a little off my program and nipped my finger too!!



When we came back later in the day, I finally got the hang of kangaroo-feeding and became quite popular among the hungry marsupial population.


I also got to touch, not hold, a koala.  And do not dare call them bears!  Like kangaroos and quokkas, they are marsupials!!  And, these poor beautiful creatures are under threat of extinction due to a rampant chlamydia epidemic, poor buggers!  Makes me so sad because they are the cutest things ever and really have the life: eighteen hours of sleep a day, waking only for feeding and presumably the behavior that got them in trouble with chlamydia in the first place!!


Here's an excellent photo of me with my adopted Malaysian family at the Caversham sign.  It's like a game of "which one of these things does not belong?"  I should put it on the Toa assessment when we want to test for differentiation....


Finally, I now have proof that real men wear Uggs.  An impromptu trip to the Apple store led to this sighting of an Aussie man in his fine, furry footwear.  They're not just for sheilas, after all.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mama Joyce

I feel like only die-hard Bravo fanatics (like myself) will get the pun of this post's title, but nonetheless, I shall forge ahead.

The "Mama Joyce" in question here is not the sassy (s)mother of No Scrubs songwriter Kandi Burress, but rather Tanzanian Education Minister, Joyce Ndalichako.  Appointed as such by President John Magufuli when he took office in early 2016, Mama Joyce was quoted in The Citizen yesterday regarding special education funding.
 

You'll recall I have written about this formidable woman a couple times before (http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2016/01/dear-joyce.html, http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2017/02/joyce-to-world.html), mostly because she is a bona fide beast on the floor of Parliament!

While I don't always agree with her pretty radical ideas, I am always amazed by them.  And by Mama Joyce herself.  A woman of this caliber of mind and action is a rare thing in the patriarchal society of Tanzania.  So, go, Mama Joyce, go!  Get that SPED $$$$!!

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Ndalichako Clears the Air On Challenges Facing Special Education Teachers

The provision of education to children with special needs faces a lot of challenges including poor and unfriendly infrastructures, which is a situation that thwarts the teachers' goals.

This was said today by a representative of teachers of children with mental disability and autism, Ms. Mariam Halfani, during a training seminar for the teachers.

The seminar was on the guidelines about how to teach lessons on communication, health, math skills, upbringing, physical training, and craftsmanship.

Ms. Halfani explained that teaching children with special needs requires friendly infrastructures including proper teaching aids and a conducive environment to teachers.

She requested the government to improve the environment by providing teaching and learning aids and constructing teaching centers for such children.

Responding, the Minister for Education, Science, and Technology, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako, said the government has already started to better teaching environments for effective provision of education to such children.

She also said the government had already carried out a feasibility study at schools for children with special needs, with the aim of improving teaching environments and infrastructures.

Besides, she said the government had already bought teaching aids worth 3.6 million Tanzanian shillings for such children, adding that the facilities have already been distributed to 213 primary and 22 secondary schools across the country.

The minister further said that the government had purchased and distributed mental assessment equipment with the aim of identifying such children as early as possible and providing medical care for those with treatable disabilities.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Education My Foot, Use Your Brain!

Please, please, please, PLEASE read this amazing column by Anthony Tambwe from the Daily News.

Love, love, love, LOVE that this newsman is using his media platform not only to disseminate the news, but also to mobilize the troops.

Since I will be leaving NYC at the end of this week - putting an end to my habit of watching countless hours of CNN per day - it warms my heart to think that, back in my other home, media folk are starting to utilize their positions to spread their own ideologies and attempt to engage the masses in lively debate.

Fake News Media comes to Tanzania!  (Just kidding....)

 
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Shikamooni wakubwa?  Wadogo zangu, hamjambo?

I know the greetings have found you wherever you are, and I also know there are those who have answered, and then there are those who have decided to ignore.  Haina taabu, I did not come here to make friends anyway.

You see, they say that Tanzanians are a very lovable lot, people who get along well with anyone, a nation that is said to be full of love (ha ha ha!), full of understanding and care....  Mi, sitaki kuongeza, ila maoni yangu ni tofauti.

If you have noticed, these same people are the ones who like to complain about everything.  From the weather to the kind of food they eat, Tanzanians can complain, na hii kazi wanaiweza kweli kweli, sio utani.

When Mjomba Mkapa was the president, these fellows could be heard in corridors and on street corners complaining about the kind of lives they are living, and of course they blamed Mjomba for their calamities, kama kawaida yao.

Entered JK, or Baba Ridhiwani, and the noise intensified, with the wailing and gnashing of teeth as Tanzanians blamed the ever-smiling husband of Mama Salma, calling him names and claiming that he is taking the country to the dogs, kelele kibao....  And most of them said it was better when Mjomba occupied the top seat, wabongo hao hao!

The good thing with Baba Ridhiwani is that he told the mourning Tanzanians that if they believed that he was too soft, then they should not hold their breaths for long, because there was a bulldozer coming to take over from him.  And he introduced Baba Jesca, or JPM to all and sundry, and the Tanzanians danced, vifijo na nderemo, from all corners.

I believe I don't have to tell you the amount of noise the Tanzanians are making right now, because it can be heard in near empty bars and rarely occupied guest houses, tunakukumbuka Baba JK!  That is what they are now saying, wabongo hawa hawa!

You see, with all this noise being made by the wabongo, I came to the conclusion that these are people who will always look for a scapegoat to throw the blame at in case they fail in life.  The easiest target in this scenario is none other than.... you guessed right, the government!  Kuna kamsemo ka wabongo kananikera sana, and it is unfortunate but it has become a very famous statement with the unsatisfied Tanzanians, especially the lazy ones, kupewa elimu.

Juzi, the government offered Tanzanians an opportunity to visit national parks, for free, for about three or four days, and the feedback from the parks is that the call was ignored, almost nobody bothered to take the offer, walikaa kimya.

A few days later , several Tanzanians were interviewed in one radio station and they were asked about the poor response, and the usual "kupewa elimu" issue surfaced, kama kawaida.  One of the fellows went ahead and blamed the government, for what, he did not have an idea himself.  "I believe that Tanzanians would have jumped at the opportunity kama wangeelimishwa...." said one of the not-so-bright fellows, hivi jamani, kuelimishwa kivipi kwa mfano?

Visiting the national parks, to say the least, is for one's own benefit, hivi mtu unataka kuelimishwa ili iweje?  Do you honestly need the government to come to your doorstep to tell you that you should make a plan to visit the park?  Kwa kweli mnashangaza sana, na inatia huruma.

You find a fellow after eating enough ugali and dagaa, he makes it his life target to fill his neighborhood with his offspring, and when things become tough for him, he is quick to jump on the government bandwagon....

"Naomba serikali iangalie mateso ninayopitia...." kwani ulitumwa!?  Watu na ndevu zao na vitambi vyao, they go ahead and dump their waste on the gutters and trenches meant for drainage, and when the rains come and the drainage system is blocked, guess what, tunaiomba serikali ituangalie, wengine eti ooh, wananchi wanahitaji kuelimishwa kuhusu madhara ya kutupa taka hovyo, hivi mna akili kweli?

When you go ahead and make someone's daughter pregnant and she produces triplets for you, the first thing is to tell the government to bail you out.  Na wengine, they might even say that people need to be educated on the dangers of unplanned children, hivi mbona hamuombi kuelimishwa wakati wa kutongoza?

It has to reach a point when Tanzanians stop looking for silly excuses for their pathetic ignorance.  People always say that ignorance is not a defense, but to Tanzanians, that is the easiest way to escape your responsibilities, kuelimishwa na nani, acheni ubabaishaji!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Taxman Cometh

What can I say?  Like father, like daughter....  As I was flipping through my news alerts this week, this one from The Citizen caught my eye and caused me a chuckle.



The title reads "Call for Tax Education to Be Incorporated in Education Curricula," and suggests that one reason people might not like paying their taxes is because they don't know what taxpayer dollars (or shillings, in this case) are spent on.

This, then, means that if they knew their hard-earned pennies (again, shillings) would go to roads, schools, and other infrastructure in their communities, they would be all the more willing to pay.

Which would mean tax education could actually lead Tanzania back to its socialist roots.  Crazy stuff, kids.
 
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Some residents in the Kilwa district of Lindi region want the government to incorporate tax education in school curricula.

The move, according to them, will enable students to become good citizens who know the obligation of paying taxes.

The students were speaking during a seminar on capacity-building for leaders of civil societies and representatives of Teachers Trade Unions (TTU).

The training, which purposely aims at protecting the rights of the girl child, is run by Tanzania Education Network (TENMET) in cooperation with Action Aid and Kilwa Non-Governmental Organization Network (KINGONET).

Speaking at the training, residents Pili Kuliwa and Tumaini Said were of the opinion that tax education should be mainstreamed into school curricula to make students become good taxpayers in future.

Kuliwa explained that lack of education makes society view tax-paying as punishment, suggesting that there was a need for the issue of education to be continuously provided to residents so as to get rid of the misconception and instead create a new culture that would enable the society to pay tax voluntarily.

Due to the challenges, she said it was proper for the government to organize short- and long-term programs including setting up a curriculum about tax issues in primary and secondary schools with the aim of grooming students to become good taxpayers in future.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pitch Tents, Not Fits

Hi guys.  I bet you never thought this day would never come.  I certainly didn't.

The tent at Mnazi Primary School is pitched!  A year and a half after we first came up with this idea to tackle (temporarily) the scarcity of classrooms at Mnazi, it has finally come to fruition.

To provide some background in brief: we first noticed the need of another classroom at Mnazi in February of last year after a Magufuli initiative closed down a bunch of private schools and accelerated nursery-age kids into Grade One.  Trump-like, Magufuli made this rash decision before determining that the existing government schools had the infrastructure to absorb these extra pupils.  Predictably, chaos ensued.

Toa activities were halted at Mnazi for the remainder of 2016 as we tried to work with the local government authorities from the education sector to find a reasonable solution.  They desperately wanted Toa to build a classroom, but I had to draw the line.  Toa is not about construction nor any kind of material goods.  Toa is about people, strengthening the existing human resources, and lassoing Tanzania's abundant social wealth.  However, we all realized the dire need for a classroom, so with permission from the Toa Boards of Directors (both US and TZ), we allotted a sum of money as a one-off contribution toward the construction of bedrock; bartered a deal with a kindly local safari tent company; and voila, going on two years later, we have, at least provisionally, a classroom space.

Here is where I must remain brief.  The time which passed between our idea of the tent as a compromise for building and its actual erection were shida-ridden, to say the least.  We at Toa so value our public-private partnership with the regional officials in Kilimanjaro, but dayum!  The negotiations were on par with a Middle East peace treaty!!  I pitched more than a couple fits, for sure.

But, apparently, that is all in the past.  The agreement was made and both sides have stood by it; the tent was delivered, erected, and filled with desks; the Mnazi community is appreciative; and I have one less thing on my "To Do" list.  Win, win, win, win!

Check out the glory of the Toa tent below, and revel in its majesty!!



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Let's Get Wet!


As everyone knows, I am currently in New York, attending to various matters stateside; then headed to Perth, Australia in just three weeks for the biennial IASE (International Association of Special Education) conference where I will present my paper on teacher training and publicize the 2019 gathering in Lushoto, Tanzania; and finally back to Moshi on July 1st, just in time to celebrate my TEN-YEAR Tanziversary (on the 4th!) with a repeat trip to Zanzibar with Kaitlin just before she leaves Tanzania and heads back to school.  I feel busier than Trump and Magufuli combined!

In my absence, Lil' K has been holding down the Toa fort on-the-ground like a champ, keeping things moving, and handling any shidas that arise like a BOSS.  Asante, Kaitlin, and well done, young one!

This past week, Kaitlin's mom Sally arrived in Moshi, spent a day or two in town, and then swept her off on a luxury safari.... which is precisely what one does when one's parents come to Africa!  Just before leaving for the Serengeti, however, they conducted the May payday with Gasto and the teachers and also ran another one of Kaitlin's leadership groups.  You'll recall the first one we did back in March: http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2017/03/follow-leader.html.

Since that initial workshop, we have done a bunch of others, all interactive and physical since the teachers seem to respond better to this type of activity than sitting and listening to boring old speeches.  (Hey, teachers, this is how the students feel too!  So try and make learning fun for them the way Kaitlin has for you!!)

Kaitlin and I co-ran a group in April in which everyone was given a secret word and asked to convey the meaning of that word to the others using any manner of denotation, connotation, or even charades, somehow getting the rest of the group to understand without using the actual word itself.  This exercise was meant to show the teachers that they must always be thinking of different ways to explain a lesson because every child's mind works differently, and it's up to us, as "learning support providers," to adjust to them.

We also did a "make believe you're an NGO director" exercise in which we split the teachers up into competing groups to come up with a vision and mission, staff and budget, and fundraising plan for their NGO, and present it all to the other groups.  Needless to say, minds were blown when I asked about how they would fund their projects; turns out, raising money is harder than they thought!  The first group to present their NGO proudly told me that they would "find mzungu donors" to support them and I had to quickly disabuse them of the notion that mzungu dollars are plum for the picking.

Kaitlin and Gasto also ran various other groups without me, but all had the common themes of instilling leadership qualities, understanding the value of teamwork, and figuring out how best to support the students who we are supporting.

Last week's group was titled "Let's Get Wet!" and involved two teams, each with the goal of transferring water from a full bucket to an empty one using a "tool."  One team's tool was a sponge and the other's was a cup.  The teachers ran relay-style to pass off the tools to each other and get the task done.  Whichever team filled up the bucket the fastest was the winning team, who afterwards was then sent over to the other side and help out using their tool.

So, this exercise had all the hallmarks of workshops past: emphasis on teamwork, communication, goal fulfillment, etc.  In addition, the "tools" were meant to represent our students, the cup being fast learners and the sponge the slow learners.  The idea was to put into perspective what it is like to have a slower processing speed, to take longer to learn a subject or accomplish a particular task, as well as to emphasize the value of what our teachers do to assist the students.

I thought it was just great, and was so pleased to see the video below of everyone participating and seemingly having a good time.  And, I give Kaitlin props for dropping just one lonely F-bomb during the whole three-minute segment.  What can I say, my surrogate daughter has a bit of a potty mouth?!  Don't know where she picked that up from!!

Enjoy!!
video

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Every Schoolgirl a Pad"

The title of this week's post refers to the headline of an article I found in the Tanzania Daily News, marking Menstrual Hygiene Day 2017, which was May 28th.

Although it concerns schoolchildren of a bit older age than our Toa kids, I still found it relevant to our work.  Pre-puberty, puberty, sexual and reproductive health, and personal/intimate hygiene are confusing topics for any child to digest, but even more so for a kid with a developmental delay or intellectual impairment.

We want all our kids to be safe and informed, but no one more so than our girl children who are even more vulnerable to social hazards and societal intolerance simply because of their sex/gender.

Toa has not yet embarked on any kind of formal health education agenda as pertains to sexual and reproductive health and safety, but we have had - sadly - several cases of sexual abuse and gender discrimination brought to our attention.

It's because of those schoolgirls from Toa years past that I feel compelled to post this article which may bring us one step closer to taking our reproductive systems and our sexual personae into our own hands from an early age.

No one should miss school or work just because she has her period.

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Schoolgirls from low-income families are still skipping classes for want of sanitary products - prompting lawmakers and civil society organization (CSO) leaders to plead with the government to increase its capitation grant for education, partly to retain those girls who cannot afford protection during their menstrual cycles.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Health, and Community Development, Mr. Peter Serukamba sounded his considered counsel yesterday as an 'aside' of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD), putting up a spirited plea for increased funding for schoolgirls via the capitation grant.

The money, he said, would bring back to class "a large number of schoolgirls" now rendered incapable of continuing with education and, as a result, opted out of school - from sheer embarrassment.

The capitation grant was adopted in 2002 when the government re-introduced free primary education alongside its equally novel Primary Education Development Program (PEDP).

The education capitation grant policy involves the allocation of $10 (22,000tsh) per pupil, but observers say it has since never been followed at some schools where the hapless girls are left to fend for themselves or, at worst, quit school altogether.

"Teachers and education executives must oversee the implementation of capitation grant to the fullest," Mr. Serukamba avers.

Plan International Tanzania UMATA (Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania) Sanitation and Hygiene Program Director Ms. Nyanzobe Malimi said a number of schools across the country were now allocating capitation grant for schoolgirls.  "I can confirm to you some schools are yet to start allocating the money.... this seriously affects girls' academic performances," she said.

The officer who has led a number of sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Dodoma region said her organization had since come up with a new approach through training schemes for the schoolgirls, their parents, as well as the teachers on best practices on how to make artificial sanitary pads.

"Most of the pupils were using 'wretch' cloth.... which could help protect themselves for a mere three hours, or less, then the cloths degenerate.... become unsanitary and uncomfortable when applied," she observed.

Dodoma-based schoolgirls, Nasra Hamadi and Damalistica John who attended the event told reporters a number of their fellow students were forced to quit schools just after their first menstrual cycle.

Their sentiments were shared by Dodoma Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) Ms. Rehema Madenge, who represented the Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr. Jordan Rugimbana, admitting that "several pupils were forced to drop out of school due to little knowledge, or sheer ignorance - about MHD.

"Girls must be educated.... beginning at home right through school.  They also need to be given friendly facilities to keep them protected during their entire cycle," she said, adding, "cases of school drop-outs and early marriages are a result of little, or total lack of, education to the affected schoolgirls."

The education sector in Tanzania has gone through a number of major reforms - until recently when the current administration of President John Magufuli resolved to send capitation grants directly to the beneficiaries (schools).